LAC: Member churches and World Service programs explore deeper collaboration
New LWF guidelines offer possibilities for joint engagement in serving the most vulnerable people
(LWI) –The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches and World Service programs in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region have begun exploring how to deepen collaboration in order to strengthen their joint work of serving the most vulnerable people in society.
Following a recent visit to the Christian Lutheran Church of Honduras (ICLH), the LWF Central America Regional Representative Mr Martin Ruppenthal, spoke of the potential for better engagement. “We talked about what we are doing as World Service in our priority areas of human rights, gender justice, climate justice, migration, development and humanitarian work. And we exchanged with the church, which has quite a sizable diaconal work for vulnerable people, children, women and others,” he said.
“We also expressed our interest in getting to know the diaconal work of the church better and see where we may fit in,” he noted. Ruppenthal said regular visits are planned to other churches “including virtual exchanges and hopefully also joint in-person meetings, and from time to time, look for projects we may develop and implement together.” Collaboration with World Service in Central America includes the LWF member churches also in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Prior to this visit, Ruppenthal and ICLH Pastor President Rev. Julio César Cabellero were among LWF member church and country program leaders and other staff taking part in a regional online workshop to introduce the new LWF Guidance Note on joint engagement between the churches and World Service programs. The 26 participants at the 15 November meeting affirmed the resource as a relevant tool for their joint work. They agreed to follow up on how they can advance collaboration in the LAC region.
At the workshop, César referred to the joint approach in humanitarian response following the devastation caused by the hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020. “That space of working together has been good also in getting to know each other. If the churches were not there, World Service would not be there. The most important part is to work like brothers and sisters,” he said.
If the churches were not there, World Service would not be there. The most important part is to work like brothers and sisters
Bishop Dr Victoria Cortez Rodriguez of the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope (ILFE) said it was crucial to continue building on the mutual dialogue that has been established over many years. “We have tried to come closer to World Service in different ways and we have succeeded but there are still things that need to be worked on. It is important to have workshops about how we understand diaconal work, and find where there are limitations and things we can do together,” she noted.
Understanding each other
Several participants said it was important to focus on getting to know each other better and understanding the shared values. “Communication is one of the most important dynamics. The guidelines make us reflect on how we live. One strength of the church is our Lutheran identity,” said Ana Mendivelso, project manager at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia.
Strengthening each other’s capacity is also critical, said Ms María Caraballo, team leader of the World Service emergency program in Venezuela, which supports people struggling to survive in the unresolved political crisis there. “It has been possible to have some conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Venezuela and develop some space for capacity training and for learning,” she said.
The LAC workshop was the last in a series of online meetings to introduce the LWF Guidance Note to LWF member churches and World Service programs at a regional level. Similar workshops are planned in the respective countries to allow both LWF entities to focus on strengthening their capacities and collaboration locally.
“World Service and church representatives have welcomed the Guidance Note as a relevant and useful tool for deepening their joint engagement. Indeed, the three regional workshops highlighted that the document is not the outcome but the entry point for more meaningful conversations and concrete action planning,” said Ms Marina Dölker, LWF Program Executive for Diakonia and Development.
“We look forward to seeing how this tool comes to life as we advance together in this process,” added Dölker, who developed the document jointly with Mr Allan Calma, LWF’s Global Humanitarian Coordinator.
The 148 LWF member churches represent more than 77 million Christians in the Lutheran tradition in 99 countries across the globe. As a global communion of churches, the member churches live and work together for a just, peaceful, and reconciled world.
World Service is a widely recognized, international, faith-based organization working through country and emergency programs in 25 countries that support nearly 3 million people in need each year. LWF’s humanitarian and development arm seeks to bring people of all backgrounds together in the common quest for justice, peace, and reconciliation.